Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Math Resources for Parents, Tutors, and Teachers

I have read some wonderful books this year on one of my favorite subjects: mathematics.  Now, stay with me!  Math can be an engaging and even entertaining topic.



Here are the two most helpful books on math teaching I have read this academic year.  Using John Saxon's Math Books - Grades 4 - 12 by Art Reed explains in detail how to use Saxon math successfully with any student from upper elementary grades through calculus.  He leads you through the incremental approach, explains proper grade level placement, and discusses the importance of homework.  The Equation for Excellence : How to Make your Child Excel at Math by Arvin Vohra is a short and sweet guide to the disciplined teaching and tutoring of math from arithmetic through high school, using the "Asian method" to produce highly competent scholars. Parents can read these books--no need for a math degree.



Finally, just for fun, read Ben Orlin's Math with Bad Drawings for a heaping helping of geek humor.  As is always the case with good comedy, there is plenty of truth mixed in.  Expect some laughs, some new insights, and plenty of bad drawings to delight and illuminate.
Strengthen your resolve to give your students/offspring the best possible foundation in mathematics.  These books are all encouraging and informative, written in a conversational style--like getting advice from a good friend.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Use as Directed: Saxon Math


The homeschool community is not of one opinion regarding Saxon Math (or much of anything, now that the movement has grown so large and diverse.) Some insist it is not rigorous enough, others insist it is boring, or too hard, or the Holy Grail of mathematics textbooks.  While I don't believe any curriculum is ideal for every child at every grade level, I would like to make the case for Saxon Math.  I have found it to be effective when used as directed.

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First, why do people not succeed using Saxon Math?  Well, Saxon is different from most other curriculum choices.  Teaching Saxon requires a paradigm shift if you have taught using other books.  Saxon lessons are incremental and cumulative, while most math books are organized topically.  Topical organization is convenient administratively, but it enables students to forget Chapter 3 topics after the test on Chapter 3, when they move on to another topic in Chapter 4.  Later, these gaps from forgetting come back to bite them, as math is the most cumulative of subjects.  Saxon, on the other hand, has many short lessons which introduce new topics piece by piece.  The problems at the end of each lesson include a couple of problems from the new material, while the rest are review from any earlier lesson.  A student cannot just be glad Chapter 3 is over and breathe easy until his gap in knowledge rears its ugly head later in the semester.  The Saxon student must confront every previous topic regularly on her daily problem sets, so she decides to deal with it instead of ignoring it.

Did I say "daily problem sets" just now? Indeed!  Here is where the "use as directed" part comes in.  Saxon expects students to do a lesson every school day, working all problems.  Did I say "all" just now? Yes.  Sure, the problems tend to be in pairs by topic, but each problem tests a different aspect of the lessons.  Would you take only half your prescribed medication and expect the same results as if you took as directed? Of course not!  Now, of course, many of you will object that this takes too long.  If your child is spending hours on a single problem set every day, you have to find out whether:
  1.  The child is just dawdling, hoping you will give in and let them quit.(Reed,p.24)
  2.  The child is placed at the wrong grade level in Saxon.(Ibid.)
  3.  The child has other issues, e.g. difficulty reading word problems, anxiety, etc.
Placement is a topic for another day, but it is better to move back a grade level and have the child work problem sets that take no more than an hour in lower grades and possibly 90 minutes to 2 hours per day in Algebra 2 and above.

I was not a big believer in Saxon until I was asked to teach it at a homeschool coop.  I have taught Advanced Math and Calculus, mostly to students who had also done Saxon for Algebra 2.  The students who work the problem sets all week and ask questions about those problems at our semi-weekly meetings learn a lot of math.  It was much harder to teach a traditional curriculum at a weekly coop, as traditional books present material in huge topical chunks--perhaps better if you have daily access to a teacher, but often overwhelming to the student doing the bulk of their work alone.  I have to say that, although I was not inclined toward liking Saxon, I now have "comparison taught" and am a big fan of the Saxon homeschool texts.*

Stay tuned for future posts about placement, testing, and geometry.
_________
Source: Art Reed, Using John Saxon's Math Books, 2007, AJ Publishers

*  Saxon is no longer owned by the late John Saxon's family.  The publisher's newest version for public schools has removed the integrated geometry into a separate textbook and aligned everything with Common Core.  I emphatically DO NOT recommend this version.  The homeschool version is still available as well, so be sure to get this version.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Other Bodies: A YA Novel that Affirms the Right to Life


How wonderful to have something pro-life for the youth market!  Dystopian novels are popular among youth, and this one has a message they are not getting in most places they frequent.

While I found the writing a bit wordy and overdone in spots, I think it will appeal to teen readers.  Hopefully it will get them thinking, talking, and asking important questions about current events and about how they live their own lives.

Get this book for the young readers in your family or church today.

Joel Ohman's Notes

How do you change someone's mind about abortion?

Author Bio: Joel Ohman

Note: I received a free review copy of the novel for my honest review.



Friday, February 1, 2019

Technology Makes Superbowl Watching Easier than Ever!

Those of us of a certain age can remember life even before VCRs.  Now it is remarkable to see how people can watch sporting events all over the world in so many ways.  If you are looking for ways to see the Superbowl this Sunday, VPN Pro has created this handy and comprehensive guide to watching, even if you are not in the United States on game day.

https://vpnpro.com/guides-and-tutorials/how-to-watch-super-bowl-online/

I hope this is helpful to readers.  I will be waiting for next year, maybe, when my Panthers will get a new season full of hope.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Book Review: 30 Days to Understanding the Bible



As a librarian, AWANA leader, and homeschool teacher, I appreciate the way this book approaches The Bible.  This book is for those who want to get the "big picture" so that book studies and topical studies have a context.  The strategies in  30 Days to Understanding the Bible remind me of the reading skills taught in Adler's How to Read a Book.  (I recommend both these books for high school students to prepare them for college-level reading.)

Max Anders outlines the structure, history, and major doctrines of the Bible.  He covers the territory well, yet keeps within the limits of an intelligent layman.  You don't need an M.Div. to improve your Bible understanding and/or teaching skills.

It is great for self-study and also includes a 13-week plan so you can use it in a classroom setting.  I am enjoying my free review copy from Propeller/FlyBy promotions.  You can buy your own copy  or check out the official book website.



Sunday, December 9, 2018

New from E.C. Jackson: The Certain Hope

She has done it again! Fiction from a trusted Christian author with an uplifting message.  You can order A Certain Hope today in paperback or Kindle editions.  It's so nice to pick up a romance and know you won't have to put it down because of inappropriate content.

The Certain Hope

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Good Libertarian Reading

There are some excellent, thought-provoking articles at Deception for Power and Profit.  Note the author is not advocating for deception, but exposing it!